Derby and Derbyshire SCB Logo

Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Boards' Procedures Manual

Children Living Away from Home

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter outlines the key points in relation to working with children who live away from home.

RELATED CHAPTERS

Making a Referral to Social Care Procedure

Safeguarding Children Who May be Victims of Modern Slavery (have been Trafficked) Procedure

Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure

AMENDMENT

In December 2015, Section 5, Children in Custody was updated to include information on the responsibilities of the Local Authority to visit and develop a Detention Placement Plan when a child / young person becomes Looked After as a result of being remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation. Section 10, Unaccompanied Children from Abroad has been completely rewritten and explains the actions which are required when there are concerns that child / young person is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm as a result of suspected trafficking.

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Essential Safeguards in All Settings
  3. Children Looked After by the Local Authority
  4. Children in Hospital
  5. Children in Custody
  6. Private Fostering
  7. Children from Abroad
  8. Children from abroad in Education Settings
  9. Foreign Exchange Visits
  10. Unaccompanied Children from Abroad

1. Introduction

Revelations of the widespread abuse and neglect of children living away from home have done much to raise awareness of the particular vulnerability of this group. Many of these reports have focused on sexual abuse, but physical and emotional abuse and neglect - including peer abuse, bullying and substance misuse - are equally a threat in institutional settings. In addition, some young people are living independently in the community and may require the coordination of services which will be identified through the Early Help or Social Care Single Assessment processes.

The circumstances where children live away from home and family include:

  • Boarding schools;
  • Children's homes;
  • Foster care;
  • Private fostering;
  • Respite Care;
  • Hospitals;
  • Prisons, young offender institutions, secure training centres, secure units;
  • Army bases;
  • Young people who are living independently;
  • Students from abroad (including foreign exchange visits);
  • Children from abroad placed with friends or relations in the UK;
  • Unaccompanied asylum seeking children
Disabled children and children for whom English is an additional language are particularly vulnerable when they are living away from home.

2. Essential Safeguards in All Settings

There are a number of essential safeguards which should be implemented in all settings in which children live away from home. Where services are not directly provided, essential safeguards should be explicitly addressed in contracts with external providers.

These safeguards should ensure that:

  • Children feel valued and respected and their self-esteem is promoted;
  • Children who live away from home are listened to and their views and concerns responded to;
  • Children have ready access to a trusted adult outside the institution, e.g. a family member, the child's Social Worker, independent visitor, children's advocate;
  • Children should be made aware of the help they could receive from independent advocacy services, external mentors, and Childline;
  • Children should be genuinely able to raise concerns and make suggestions for changes and improvements, which are taken seriously;
  • Effective action is taken to prevent and respond to bullying.

Settings are fit for purpose and ensure that:

  • There is openness on the part of the institution to the external world and external scrutiny, including contact with families and the wider community;
  • There are clear procedures for referring safeguarding concerns about a child to the relevant local authority;
  • Organisations should have a code of conduct instructing staff on their duty to their employer and their professional obligations which should also include raising legitimate concerns about the conduct of colleagues or managers;
  • There should be a guarantee that procedures can be invoked in ways which do not prejudice the 'whistle-blower's' own position and prospects; there is respect for diversity and sensitivity to race, culture, religion, gender, sexuality and disability;

Staffing arrangements ensure that:

  • Staff and foster carers are trained in all aspects of safeguarding children are; alert to children's vulnerabilities and risks of harm; and are knowledgeable about how to implement safeguarding children procedures;
  • Recruitment and selection procedures are rigorous and create a high threshold of entry to deter abusers;
  • There is effective supervision and support, which extends to temporary staff and volunteers;
  • Contractor staff are effectively checked and supervised when on site or in contact with children;
  • Staff recognise the importance of ascertaining the wishes and feelings of children and understand how individual children communicate by verbal or non-verbal means;
  • Clear procedures and support systems are in place for dealing with expressions of concern by staff and carers about other staff or carers;
  • Staff and carers are alert to the risks of harm to children in the external environment from people prepared to exploit the additional vulnerability of children living away from home.

A complaints procedure is in place which:

  • Is clear, effective, user friendly and readily accessible to children and young people, including those with disabilities and those for whom English is not their preferred language;
  • Addresses informal as well as formal complaints. Systems that do not promote open communication about 'minor' complaints will not be responsive to major ones, and a pattern of 'minor' complaints may indicate more deeply seated problems in management and culture which need to be addressed.
Records of complaints should be kept by providers of children's services, for example there should be a complaints register in every children's home which records all representations or complaints, the action taken to address them, and the outcomes.

3. Children Looked After by the Local Authority

Children who are Looked After in public care have particular needs. Individual children may be hard to reach and have little regard for their own safety. It is the responsibility of all practitioners to ensure that these children are safeguarded and their welfare is promoted.

The Independent Reviewing Officers IRO Handbook: Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children (2010) gives specific guidance on duties in relation to children who are looked after in public care. These apply to all children who are subject to Care Orders (either interim or final) whether they are living in residential care, with foster carers, independently or at home. They also relate to children who are voluntarily accommodated in public care.

Social Workers should ensure that a looked after child is seen alone regularly and at key points. Care should be taken to listen to the wishes and views of the child and these should be recorded.

Children should always be given the opportunity of seeing the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO)and speaking to them on their own (if age and developmentally appropriate) at the time of each Looked After Review.

The safety and appropriateness of the plans and arrangements for a child who is looked after in public care are considered at the Looked After Review meeting, a multi-agency forum which takes place on a regular basis and should be fully recorded. Any practitioner who has concerns about the welfare of a child should raise their concerns at that meeting or, if more urgent, bring them to the attention of the Social Worker or IRO at any time.

The duty of the local authority to undertake s47 enquiries when there are concerns that child has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm applies to children who are in the care of the local authority as it does to children who live in any other situation.

3.1 Children looked after in Residential Settings

Children who live in residential establishments have particular needs and practitioners should be vigilant in ensuring that they feel safe and secure both within and outside the setting.

Managers should ensure that staff members are aware of procedures to follow in respect of abuse by children and young people. See also Children who Present a Risk of Harm to Others Procedure.

Residential staff who have concerns about the welfare or safety of any child for whom they care should first raise the concern with the registered manager (or deputy) of the unit immediately.

Any allegations made against staff members or volunteers should be responded to in line with these procedures. See Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure.

3.2 Children looked after in Foster Care

The majority of children who are in the care of the local authority are placed with foster carers and should expect to be treated in the same way as a child in any other family

If concerns are raised about the quality of care, the safety provided or an allegation of abuse to a child in foster care, consideration should also be given the welfare of any other children living in the household, including the foster carers' own children and possibly previously cared for children. See Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure.

3.3 Children placed for adoption

Where a child is placed for adoption, s/he remains a looked after child, until the Adoption Order is made and procedures in relation to the care of Looked After children continue to apply.

3.4 Children placed by other authorities in privately run residential or foster homes in Derby or Derbyshire

Children placed in privately run residential or foster homes are the responsibility of their own placing authority.  However, whilst the child is living in Derby or Derbyshire these procedures apply.

Where there is an allegation of abuse by staff or other children or young people, it is the responsibility of Children's Social Care (in Derby or Derbyshire) to convene a strategy discussion/ meeting. A specific decision of the strategy discussion/meeting will be to determine the responsibility for undertaking any enquiries. See Child Protection Section 47 Enquiries Procedure, Strategy Discussions/Meetings and Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure and Children who Present a Risk of Harm to Others Procedure.

The local authority in whose area a child is found in circumstances that require emergency action, is responsible for taking that action. If the child is looked after by, or the subject of a Child Protection Plan in another authority, the first authority should consult the authority responsible for the child. Only when the second local authority explicitly accepts responsibility is the first authority relieved of the responsibility to take emergency action. Such acceptance should be subsequently confirmed in writing.

4. Children in Hospital

The National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services sets out standards for hospital services. Hospitals should be child friendly, safe and healthy places for children, with care in an appropriate location and environment. Children should not be cared for in an adult ward.

Section 85 of the Children Act 1989 requires Health Providers / Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to notify the Children's Social Care for the area where the child is ordinarily resident when a child has been, or will be, accommodated by the Health Provider / CCG for 3 months or more, for example in hospital. This is so the welfare of the child can be assessed if necessary and kept under review. Specific criteria apply to the discharge of a child from hospital where there have been concerns about abuse.

5. Children in Custody

The local authority has the same responsibilities towards children in custody as it does towards other children in the area. Where a child becomes looked after as a result of being remanded to youth detention accommodation (YDA), the local authority must visit the child and assess the child's needs before taking a decision. This information must be used to prepare a Detention Placement Plan (DPP), which must set out how the YDA and other professionals will meet the child's needs whilst the child remains remanded. The DPP must be reviewed in the same way as a care plan for any other looked after child.

The Youth Justice Board has a duty to take a lead on ensuring that children in its care are appropriately cared for and that it has robust procedures to safeguard their welfare.

6. Private Fostering

A private fostering arrangement is one made without the involvement of Children's Social Care for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative for 28 days or more. This may include children sent from abroad, asylum seeking and refugee children, teenagers staying in short term arrangements with friends or other non relatives and language students with host families. (A close relative is defined as grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt - whether of full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership - or step-parent).

Private foster carers and those with Parental Responsibility are required to notify the local authority of their intention to privately foster or have a child fostered.

Teachers, health and other practitioners should notify Children's Social Care of any private fostering arrangements that come to their attention; unless they are satisfied that Children's Social Care have already been notified of the arrangement.

Children's Social Care must satisfy themselves as to the suitability of the private foster carer, their household and accommodation.

Where advance notice is given, this should be prior to the commencement of the arrangement. There are powers to impose requirements on the carer or, if there are serious concerns about an arrangement, to prohibit it.

Children's Social Care must visit privately fostered children at regular intervals (a minimum of 6 weekly visits in year 1 and thereafter a minimum of 12 weekly) to ensure that their welfare is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted and that private foster carers and parents are provided with any required advice. The child should be seen alone unless it is inappropriate to do so.

Children should be given contact details of the social care worker who will be visiting them while they are being privately fostered.

The Children Act 1989 creates a number of offences in connection with private fostering, including the failure to notify an arrangement or to comply with any requirement or prohibition imposed by Children's Services. Certain people are disqualified from being private foster carers.

For further information please see Derby Private Fostering Procedure or Derbyshire Children's Services Private Fostering Procedure.

Information about private fostering is also available on the Derby City Safeguarding Children Board website and Derbyshire County Council website:

7. Children from Abroad

Large numbers of children arrive into this country from overseas every day. Many of these children do so legally in the care of their parents, or for the purposes of education, a holiday etc and do not raise any concerns for statutory agencies. Whenever there are any concerns about a child from abroad they should be reported to Children's Social Care. See Making a Referral to Social Care Procedure.

8. Children from abroad in Education Settings

Children from abroad who attend boarding school in the UK are not considered to be privately fostered during the term time. If, during holiday periods, they remain at school or stay with carers arranged by the school, for a period of 14 days or more they are regarded as being privately fostered and the regulations set out above apply.

If arrangements for the care of the children during holiday periods are made directly between the parents and carers (without the involvement of an intermediary) the private fostering regulations come into effect after 28 days.

9. Foreign Exchange Visits

Children on foreign exchange visits typically stay with a family selected by the school in the host country. Where this is for a period of less than 28 days they are not 'privately fostered'.

In these circumstances the only agency involved is education, with the school making arrangements to select host families and to negotiate the provision of families abroad.

In the event that any child in a household is subject to a Child Protection Plan, is a Child in Need or is the subject of a s47 enquiry, the household should (until there is a satisfactory resolution of concerns) be regarded by the school as unsuitable to receive a pupil from an overseas school.

Schools remain responsible for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children when they arrange school exchange visits abroad. A school must take all reasonable steps to ensure that relevant schools abroad take a comparable approach.

See Keeping Children Safe in Education, Annex E: Host Families Homestay During Exchange Visits.

10. Unaccompanied Children from Abroad

Some children arrive in this country in circumstances that make them particularly vulnerable which include:

  • In the care of adults who, whilst they may be their carers, have no Parental Responsibility for them;
  • In the care of adults who have no documents to demonstrate a relationship with the child;
  • In the care of agents (adults employed to bring them into the country);
  • Being unaccompanied.

Practitioners should always be alert to the fact the child may have been trafficked; see Safeguarding children who may be Victims of Modern Slavery (have been trafficked) Procedure.

Children arriving from abroad who are unaccompanied or accompanied by someone who is not their parent and/or where there are concerns that they may have been trafficked should be immediately referred to children's social care; see Making a Referral to Social Care Procedure and Safeguarding children who may be Victims of Modern Slavery (have been trafficked) Procedure.

Where there are concerns that a child may be or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, Children's Social Care will convene a Strategy Discussion / Meeting involving health, police and other relevant agencies. See Child Protection Section 47 Enquiries Procedure, Strategy Discussions / Meetings.

The strategy discussion/meeting will:

  • Develop a strategy for making enquiries into the child's circumstances, including confirmation of the child's identity and immigration status, age, carer's relationship with the child and immigration status, child's health and education arrangements in this country;
  • Consider if a plan is required for the child's immediate protection, including the supervision and monitoring of arrangements (for Looked After Children this will form part of the Care Plan);
  • Agree what support the child requires, including what should be put in place to enable the child to communicate effectively and how the child and their family members are to be approached and what they will be told;
  • Whether specialist advice, support or assessment should be sought;
  • Agree if photographs and identifying details need to be obtained;
  • Agree how any criminal investigations, assessments and legal action is to be co-ordinated.

There should also be a consideration of:

  • The additional implications for a family where there are concerns about immigration/deportation;
  • Balancing the impact on a child of separation with the available history and its credibility;
  • Judgements about child care practices in the context of different cultural backgrounds and experiences;
  • The child and family's perceptions of "Authority Figures", the role of the Police in particular, and the level of fear which may be generated.

In some cultures child rearing is a shared responsibility between relatives and members of the community. Children may arrive in this country in the care of adults with whom they have always lived but to whom they are only distantly, if at all, related. Unless they are close relatives, that is grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent), the child should be considered as being privately fostered and the placement subject to the relevant checks and regulations. See Section 6, Private Fostering.

Approved interpreters should be used when the child's preferred language is not English.

Children who do not have someone with Parental Responsibility caring for them can still access universal services including education and health care.